Overworked and Sleepy: The Sad American Way


Vol. 21 •Issue 6 • Page 6
Guest Editorial

Overworked and Sleepy: The Sad American Way

Are you overworked? Don’t worry if you’re too tired to nod your droopy head in agreement.

I’ll take your blank sleep-deprived gaze as proof enough.

As a society, we take on too much with our jobs and don’t make up for it with the proper amount of sleep (experts generally peg that at eight hours a night).

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), as part of National Sleep Awareness Week (March 3-9), sought to find out the extent of this disparity. Findings just released from the organization’s annual Sleep in America poll offer a disturbing look:

  • Of those taking their work home with them, 20 percent say they spend 10 or more additional hours each week and 25 percent spend at least seven additional hours each week on job-related duties.
  • 23 percent of all respondents did job-related work in the hour before going to bed at least a few nights each week.
  • 29 percent of those polled fell asleep or became very sleepy at work in the past month.
  • 36 percent have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving, with 32 percent reporting they drive drowsy at least one or two times per month.
  • 65 percent report experiencing a sleep problem, such as difficulty falling asleep or waking feeling unrefreshed, at least a few times each week.

    The bad news goes on. For all the poll results (and I recommend checking them out), visit www.sleepfoundation.org.

    The solution to the work-sleep imbalance, while not easy, is attainable, and I suggest a two-part approach to prevent us from further becoming a nation of zombies.

    First, take a look at yourself. How much sleep do you sacrifice for your job? And is your work negatively impacted as a result?

    As a health care provider, you have a responsibility to perform at your top level at all times. Sleep deprivation can lead to a lack of focus and consequently to medical errors, with potentially deadly results.

    Also, don’t forget how far the tentacles of this hectic lifestyle reach. The NSF’s poll shows 20 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed have sex less often or have lost interest in sex because they’re too sleepy.

    Next part, educate your patients and the public about the importance of sleep and being checked for sleep disorders. For inspiration, look at what the following two facilities have planned for National Sleep Awareness Week.

    Employees from the Sleep Disorders Center at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth, N.J., will host a four-hour event, featuring individualized sleep assessments for the hospital staff and community residents and workers, explained Nancy Gonzalez, RRT, RPSGT, chief daytime tech.

    Staff members at the Sleep Health Centers in Fort Myers, Fla., plan to spread their message as well, said CEO Cindy Bledsoe, RN. They will travel to schools and transportation centers, setting up booths with brochures on sleep issues and disorders. Using questionnaires, they also will screen for obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.

    Fueled by facilities like these, the NSF hopes we can stop hitting the snooze button to this epidemic in our country.

    “Nearly 50 million Americans chronically suffer from sleep problems and disorders that affect their careers, their personal relationships and safety on our roads,” declared Darrel Drobnich, NSF acting CEO, in a statement. “It’s time for American workers and employers to make sleep a priority.”

    How are you going to make a difference?

    Mike Bederka, managing editor, can be reached at mbederka@merion.com.

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